Project Rachel: Learning to forgive myself and others

Courtesy graphic

The Pilot ran in 2012 "Voices of hope and healing," a series of reflections offered by women who have found healing from the pain of abortion through the post-abortion ministry. In the context of the Holy Father's letter on the upcoming Jubilee Year of Mercy we are reprinting one of those reflections.

I am writing full of gratitude this day but this was not always the scene. Many years ago, I was young and naive and I became pregnant at 17. I was so afraid ...of my parents reaction, of life ahead, of how to be a mom yet still I wanted to have my baby. That was about 38 years ago and back then family life and our society were quite different. No clinics, school nurses discussing sex, school counselors, or even an anonymous help line to call. We needed parental permission for anything and everything. My parents told me that I would have an abortion. I was ashamed of myself and I had shamed my family. I had an abortion as arranged.

Although my mom loved God and had instructed me in his ways, I think that she betrayed her own beliefs to try to salvage my future. I was told to never talk about this with anyone and to go on with my life. What she did not realize was that part of me and my life, in most regards, had died with my baby right on that table. I spent the next 26 years in emotional bondage. I was heartbroken. I felt ashamed, guilty, lonely empty, unlovable, unforgivable, and I hated myself. I felt undeserving of love from people or God. I had an emotional breakdown. I knew that I needed to come out of the darkness within me if I was going to survive. I was depressed and I felt very distant from God so I sought spiritual direction from a religious woman, Sister Mary. I honestly didn't think that my present condition had anything to do with my abortion since it was many years prior. I had no intentions of sharing my abortion history with her. But thank God that he knows better than me! It all spilled out of me and Mary could now connect the dots to realize what was going on inside of me. About nine months earlier, I had taken info from my church bulletin board and had tucked it in my bible and there it stayed. Fearfully, I asked her if she knew anything about Project Rachel. She agreed to call because I was too afraid.

From that time on my life changed drastically! I attended the weekend retreat and learned that God's love and forgiveness is awesome and vast and this allowed me to begin to forgive myself. I realized that I had been forgiven the first time I asked God, so the 26 years of repetition must have given God quite a headache! I realized that I was hurting myself by not forgiving me. I came to understand that God does hate sin but he loves me, the sinner.

Special blessings came when I took the risk and shared all of what was happening with my mom. She cried and confessed that she too had been tormented by shame and guilt for all those years. My mom got breast cancer and died within that next year. My mom had the opportunity to reconcile with God and me before her death. God's timing is perfect and amazing isn't it? I miss her so very much but I know she is free! Reconciliation is so very sweet with God and with each other. Through love and support I too am free! No more bondage! In my weakest times God strengthened me with his words from 2 Timothy 1:7 "for God hath not given me a spirit of fear but of power, of love, and of a sound mind." I didn't deserve it but God loved and healed me. That's what makes God's grace so awesome... It's an undeserved gift purely because he loves us and wants us whole. When I allowed God into my dark, scary place, I became free. God loves us all so don't remain in the chains of shame, guilt, and self hatred. Call on God. I know that he is faithful and he keeps all his promises. I am living proof. You can be too!

For more information on Project Rachel, including an explanatory video, visit the website at www.ProjectRachelBoston.com or call 508-651-3100. All calls are confidential.

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